Scaling The Unscalable: How to Go Big and Stay Personal

Last week, we discussed the unscalable power of personal attention. It's a lovely topic -- if you're not planning to scale. Lots of us, however, are involved with projects that are bigger than our personal brands, with corporates comprising thousands of employees or with startups that are aiming no lower than global domination. In these instances, should we just ignore the personal?


Answer: it's a trick question.

It's a trick because it involves a number of assumptions about what it means to offer personal attention. It assumes that personal attention is a linear phenomenon -- that each new customer will require five new minutes per day of customer service time, or whatever the case may be. It assumes that we the company are responsible for delivering that personal attention. And -- most fundamentally -- it assumes that personal attention must be delivered by a person to begin with. These are all assumptions that can lead us astray. Here are three ways personal attention can scale:




  1. Conduct your personal attention activities in public.
    We love to see each other get singled out. One of the examples in last week's column was the Old Spice Guy's personalized video campaign, which leveraged 183 videos into 183 million views. If you're not lucky enough to have such a viral hit on your hands, at least answer questions in public fora like Twitter or Facebook, so that your personalized response can address more than one person at a time.


  3. Allow members of your community to provide attention to each other.
    When we get a "how-to" question on our MiniMonos Twitter account, we'll retweet it with a call for other kids to answer the question. This accomplishes several things: it creates stronger relationships amongst the community, it sets expectations for helpfulness and support, and it helps our community to gain its own momentum.


    Another example is Facebook, which is not known for having a team of customer service folks at the ready to take your calls. What they do have, however, is a product that is epitomizes personal attention, not from the company, but from friends and family. We go to Facebook because we like it when people we know pay attention to our posts.


  4. Integrate personal attention into the design process.
    My buddy Phillip was the first person who ever showed me an iPhone, and, as you can imagine, he was in awe. Want to know what impressed him the most? It was the little bounce you get when you're scrolling through your contacts and you reach the end of the list. "They didn't have to do that!" he enthused. "It just shows how much they care!" Did Apple send someone to his house with flowers? No. But for Phillip, their attention to detail translated to personal attention.


    "Usability design" is wholly about personal attention. We love Adwords because it's so simple for us to be entirely in control. And frustration with a website generally stems from a sense that the designers don't care about us. If they did, surely they would have put themselves in our shoes and realized how much better they can make our lives.


In the end, personal attention is about empathy. What is the experience for your customer, for your website visitor, for your community member? Do they need you to hold their hand and listen to them in private? Or can you create a personal experience on a grand scale? I'd love to hear how you're scaling your own personal attention, so get in touch on Twitter or leave me a comment. Just be warned -- I'll probably answer questions in public.

2 comments about "Scaling The Unscalable: How to Go Big and Stay Personal".
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  1. Karl Hourigan, February 4, 2011 at 4:55 p.m.

    I love point #3, empathy expressed through design!

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 4, 2011 at 5:27 p.m.

    Do you sell green dresses because that is what you want to sell or what customers want?

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